Midnight Mass on Greek Easter

Text: Well you know, there’s a lot of traditions in the church and such. I mean we don’t really go to church a lot so I don’t remember that well. But, on Greek Easter there’s Midnight Mass. You know you go to church around 11pm and when you get there you buy a candle – it’s supposed to be a donation to the church. They’re usually not expensive. Some people bring their own candles, but not a lot. People also tend to dress up because it’s a big holiday in the church. You go in, there’s a service, it’s usually pretty crowded. They go through it kind of like a regular service, but sometimes with special passages or things they read for Easter. The priest talks about things. And then around maybe 11:45, everyone stands, and they turn off all the lights in the church so it’s completely dark. The altar boys and the priests start lighting everyone’s candles and then you kind of pass the light down all the rows lighting each other’s candles, until the whole church is kind of lit up, bright from the candlelight. Then everyone sings, and the kind of chant you know Christos Anesti, Christ has risen. Alithos Anesti, yes he has. And I think the idea is that Christ is rising at midnight and around midnight they open the doors and everyone files outside with their candles, talks to each other, it’s very pretty really.  

Context: M was born and raised in Southern California. Both his parents are of Greek descent, he is a second-generation American on his mother’s side and a third-generation American on his father’s side. M does not actively practice Greek Orthodoxy, but does consider himself a Christian. 
Analysis: The phrases Christos Anesti and Alithos Anesti are also used as a greeting and a goodbye during Easter time by Greek people. Easter, the day when Christ rises after having been crucified and entombed for three days, is as M notes one of the most important holidays in the church. It is preceded by lent, beginning on Clean Monday, which follows through to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (on which lent ends). Lent is supposed to be a time of fasting and often followers of the Christian faith attempt to give up something which is not good for them, or do something good for them which is typically personally difficult. Each of these holy days have a different service and tradition associated with them in the Greek Church. The midnight mass M describes takes place on Holy Saturday and is followed by an early breakfast after the church service on Sunday to break the fast from lent. The Orthodox Easter midnight mass mirrors the Christmas midnight mass which occurs on Christmas Eve. The candles M describes are often bought for children by their god parents, and represent Christ’s resurrection, or Christ’s light– his transition from the darkness of the tomb to the light of the world.